Herbs & Supplements

The variety of vitamins and natural supplements available today can be confusing and overwhelming. The NorthStar blog on herbs and supplements provides the latest updates on what's out there, what works, what doesn't and why.

  1. 10 ways to reduce holiday stress

    There's a lot you can do to reduce holiday stress. First off, make sure to eat protein with every meal. It's the great stabilizer for your blood sugar and your mood. Plus, it will help keep your cortisol levels right where they should be.

    Cortisol is the stress hormone that causes your "fight or flight" response. We all need it from time to time. But low protein intake day after day can make your cortisol levels climb high and stay high. And that's not good. In fact, chronically elevated cortisol can cause blood sugar problems, weight gain, and lowered immunity.

    So aim to get 10 to 20 grams of protein with each meal. That will go a long way in regulating your cortisol. Breakfast is usually the one meal where you'll fall short on protein. But that's an easy fix. Just eat an egg or two will help with holiday stress.

    Each egg contains almost seven grams of protein. Just make sure to go for organic, free-range brown eggs. Get them from a local farmer, if you can! You'll know these eggs are the real deal if they have dark (almost orange) yolks and hard shells.

    And if you're worried about the cholesterol in eggs, look back at last year's Guide to Good Health. You'll never think twice about eating real eggs again!

    Any type of oily fish (yes, even in the morning!) is also a good protein choice. Oily fish like salmon also contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids. These natural substances help to lower those pesky cortisol levels which tend to creep up during the holidays. The omega-3s in fish can also help reduce holiday stress.

    Plus, remember this...

    Whole grains burn slower

    During the stress of the holidays, it's more important than ever to choose whole grains. These grains boost the levels of serotonin, the "feel good" chemical in the brain. Plus, whole grains are packed with fiber, which your body will burn more slowly.

    So opt for whole-wheat pasta instead of white pasta at dinner. You won't suffer from the blood sugar crash that will make you cranky and tense. Good whole grains to work into your diet include: 100 percent whole wheat, oats, barley, quinoa, and brown rice.

    Okay, now we're really on a how to ease holiday stress roll. So why stop? This holiday, try your best to...

    Combine whole grains with nutrient-rich foods

    Make sure your meals contain lots of dark green vegetables. That's because dark greens such as broccoli, kale, and spinach contain lots of vitamin B. And the B vitamins keep your memory sharp, your energy high, and your anxiety low. Nuts also contain lots of B vitamins...as well as plenty of calming protein and magnesium.

    It's also a good idea to take a complex supplement that contains all eight forms vitamin B. Plus, look for a brand that contains at least 25 mg of B1, B2, and B6. But don't stop there. Around this time of year, you may even consider taking a little extra B-12. It's one of the most important in this family of vitamins. Known as the "energy vitamin," it will help you power through holiday stress on even your most hectic days. Go for the sub-lingual form that you can squirt under your tongue. Your body will absorb this more easily than tablets.

    Eat more citrus fruits

    Next, I want you to eat more citrus this holiday season. Clementines are great this time of year and they contain lots of vitamin C. Research shows that vitamin C is a natural and powerful stress buster.

    In fact, in a recent German study, researchers found that men and women who were given 1,000 mg of vitamin C showed fewer signs of stress. For the study, researchers divided 120 men and women into two groups. One group received 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily and the other group received a placebo. Next, the researchers subjected the volunteers to a series of stressful situations...public speaking and math problems.

    Then, the researchers measured the volunteers' blood pressure and cortisol levels. Any guesses which group fared better?

    You betcha.

    The volunteers who took vitamin C had much lower blood pressure and much lower cortisol levels. Plus, they reported feeling less stress after they got the vitamin.

    So in addition to eating citrus this holiday season, make sure to supplement with vitamin C. I'd go for a bit more than what the volunteers in the study took. In fact, strive to get at least 1,000 mg of C twice a day. Take that amount three times a day if you're really feeling like your pot's going to boil over, it will definitely help you reduce holiday stress.

    Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so any extra your body doesn't need will get flushed. Plus, remember that vitamin C only stays in your body for a few hours at a time. So be consistent with your supplementing throughout the day and skip the time-released preparations as these are a waste of money.

  2. Vitamin D is critical to chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients

    Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a brutal disease. And the standard treatment usually calls for waiting until the symptoms to get bad enough so you can start chemotherapy. But according to a major new study, you don't have to play this helpless waiting game. You can help control the progression of the disease with the help of vitamin D.

    For the study, researchers from the Mayo Clinic and University of Iowa recruited 390 patients recently diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. First off, they checked the patients' blood levels for plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

    They found that roughly 30 percent of the patients were deficient in vitamin D (levels lower than 25 nanograms per milliliter). Then the researchers checked back in on all the patients three years later.

    Unfortunately, the disease progressed much faster in those deficient in vitamin D.

    In fact, patients low in the vitamin had a 66 percent greater risk of disease progression during that time compared to their counterparts. Plus, they had more than double the risk of dying.

    According to Dr. Shanafelt, lead researcher for the study, "This tells us that vitamin D insufficiency may be the first potentially modifiable risk factor associated with prognosis in newly diagnosed chronic lymphocytic leukemia. This finding may be particularly relevant for this kind of leukemia because although we often identify it at an early stage, the standard approach is to wait until symptoms develop before treating patients with chemotherapy. This watch and wait approach
    is difficult for patients because they feel there is nothing they can do to help themselves."

    So if you have chronic lymphocytic leukemia, show your oncologist this study. It was published on November 3, 2010 in the journal Blood. Once he gives you the okay, start taking 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. It's the form of vitamin D best absorbed in the body. Plus, though the study was limited to chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients, I strongly anyone struck with cancer to take extra vitamin D.

  3. Improve gum disease with omega-3 fatty acids

    A new study found that men and women who get daily amounts of omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduce their risk of developing gum disease. Omega-3s are important to your oral health in two ways. First off, previous research shows that low doses of EPA, DHA, and ALA (all forms of omega-3 fatty acids) block the growth of oral pathogens, such as Streptococcus mutans, Candida albicans, and Porphyromonas ginigivalis. Plus... The latest study shows that omega-3s reduce inflammation in your gums. And that‘s a big deal. In fact, scientists believe it explains why men and women who ate foods containing moderate amounts of DHA and EPA were 20 percent less likely to develop gum disease. According to lead author Dr. Asghar Naqvi, Harvard Medical School, "To date, the treatment of periodontitis has primarily involved mechanical cleaning and local antibiotic application. Thus, a dietary therapy, if effective, might be a less expensive and safer method for the prevention and treatment of periodontitis." "Our results also suggest that DHA ([in] doses recommended by the American Heart Association ...) may be as or more potent in influencing periodontitis," continued Dr. Naqvi. The easiest way to get plenty of DHA and EPA is with a fish oil supplement. Take it with meals to avoid the fishy aftertaste. Also, to combat the free radicals produced by the omega-3s in fish oil, take 400 IU of vitamin E along with it. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that will zap unwanted free radicals. Just look for all-natural vitamin E with mixed tocopherols.
  4. Skip the sedative hypnotic drugs and get a safer night sleep

    A recent study found that men and women who take sedatives to sleep may increase their mortality risk by more than a third. Now, I know that lack of sleep is a huge problem, especially if you‘re under a lot of stress. But if you take a drug like Ambien to catch some z‘s, you could be heading for disaster. The good news is, there are plenty of safe and natural sleep aids that won‘t send you to an early grave. More about those in a moment. But first, let me explain...

    Why sedatives are so bad

    According to some research, 20 percent of adults use some type of sleep aid each night. You may take an OTC drug like Tylenol PM to help get you through a rough couple of nights. These drugs contain antihistamines plus pain relievers. These drugs are tough on the liver and your digestive system, but they‘re not nearly in the same league as a prescription drug like Ambien. Ambien belongs to a class of drugs called sedative hypnotics. And there are two distinct types of sedative hypnotics. The first type of sedatives -- called benzodiazepines -- hit the market in the 1950s. Xanax and Ativan are the most well-known. Side effects range from daytime sleepiness to urinary incontinence to respiratory problems. But the biggest drawback for these heavy-duty drugs is the tendency to become dependent on them. Plus, these drugs stay in your system longer than a newer class of hypnotics called non-benzodiazepines. And that‘s why the more recent drugs like Ambien have been such blockbusters. They‘re perceived as safer and less addicting. But according to the new study, they‘re just as dangerous...if not more so because you think you‘re safe taking them for a longer period.

    Sedative drug use may increase mortality risk by 36 percent

    For this study, scientists analyzed data for 14,000 people. They found that men and women who took a sedative hypnotic drug had a 36 percent greater risk of dying. And those at greatest risk were men and women over age 55. In addition, men and women with pre-existing health conditions -- such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, or respiratory disease -- also ran a greater risk of dying after taking a sedative. According to the published report, there are a number of reasons why this happens... First off, both types of sedative hypnotic drugs impair your ability to stay alert. They also affect your coordination. This -- they authors wrote -- contributes to an increase in falls and car accidents. Secondly, we know that these drugs can also trigger or aggravate breathing disorders. So imagine what taking a sedative will do to someone who‘s already got sleep apnea or asthma...or someone who smokes! It‘s a recipe for disaster. Lastly, these drugs may cause depression...or make existing depression worse. They can also play games with your central nervous system. As a result, feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin can be disturbed. Therefore, I‘m guessing that some of the premature deaths in the study may have occurred due to suicide. So if sedative drugs aren‘t the answer to your sleep problems...what is?

    Safely and naturally improving your sleep

    You already know to keep your room a cool, dark, TV-free zone. And exercising before bed will just rev you up. Plus, here are few other tips that should help you get back to a healthy sleep pattern... 1. Get off all stimulants. Yup, even in the morning. Coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate are the obvious culprits. But you should also avoid taking ginseng, B12, or milk thistle before bed too. You‘ll also want to avoid eating bacon, cheese, chocolate, ham, potatoes, sugar, sausage, spinach, or tomatoes close to bedtime. These foods contain tyramine, which increases the release of norepinephrine, a brain stimulant. Most processed foods also contain tyramine. 2. Try upping your daily magnesium. Go for 500 mg capsules at bedtime. If you also suffer from mild anxiety, this amount of magnesium may also lessen your symptoms. 3. If you‘re under the age of 40, try using l-tryptophan. It‘s an essential amino acid found in turkey, chicken, tuna, whole grain crackers, eggs, bananas, figs and dates. So, if you must eat before bed, these are all safe choices. But of course, to get enough l-tryptophan from food, you‘d have too eat a lot of it— nothing like a whole turkey before bed, right? So supplementing is ideal. L- tryptophan will help gently induce sleep. Plus, unlike many drugs, it won‘t cause morning-after fogginess. That said, unfortunately, if you suffer from lactose intolerance, you may have trouble absorbing l-tryptophan. So if that‘s the case, stick to the other options. 4. I‘ve also seen excellent results using melatonin supplements. Just beware, melatonin is a hormone. So I don‘t recommend taking it if you‘re younger than 40. But as we get older, our melatonin production slows down so there‘s less of a chance of you getting "too much" by taking it as a supplement. Go for the smallest dose to start: 1.5 mg at bedtime for ages 40 to 50 or 3 mg for people over the age of 50. With higher dosages, you might wake up drowsy. If that‘s the case, you know you‘ve taken too much. 5. After a certain age, many of us wake up every night to visit the bathroom. If you want to get ahead of the curve and support healthy bladder function now, there‘s a plant extract call three-leaf caper that just might help. Used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, three-leaf caper strengthens and tones the bladder wall so it can empty more fully. You‘ll find three-leaf caper, along with several other herbs that support bladder function, in a NorthStar Nutritional product called UroLogic. To learn more about three-leaf caper and UroLogic, read this: http://www.northstarnutritionals.com/p/UroLogic.htm. For men interested in a product that supports bladder as well as prostate function, consider ProSense by NorthStar Nutritionals: http://www.northstarnutritionals.com/p/ProSense.htm. It‘s a safe, natural, and effective way to address both bladder and prostate health. Just remember, when you sleep it‘s your body‘s time to refresh and reboot. It‘s vital for your overall health. So if you‘re not getting enough restful z‘s, give one of these natural sleep aids a try.
  5. Study finds link between vitamin E and prostate cancer

    Scientists from Australia found that vitamin E might play a major role hampering the development and re-growth of prostate cancer tumors. For the study, Dr. Patrick Ling and a team of researchers injected mice with prostate cancer cells. Then, they divided the mice into two groups. They fed one group of mice water fortified with a form of vitamin E called gamma-tocotrienol or y-T3. The other group of mice drank regular water. Researchers found that 70 percent of the vitamin E mice never went on to develop prostate cancer tumors, despite being injected with malignant cells. And, yes, the remaining 30 percent did develop prostate cancer. But following surgery, their tumors were far less likely to re-grow or metastasize. On the other hand, tumors formed in 100 percent of the control group of mice not given vitamin E. Those incredible results, though tested on mice, show just how powerful vitamin E really is. According to Dr. Ling, "Currently there is no effective treatment for metastatic prostate cancer, because it grows back after conventional therapies in more than 70 percent of cases. But with [vitamin E3] researchers have found a better way to treat prostate cancer, which has the potential to inhibit recurrence of the disease." Dr. Ling went on to say that chemo, radiation, and hormone therapy fail to cure prostate cancer because they don‘t kill the cancer stem cell responsible for the re-growth of tumors. He also believes that y-T3 will also prove effective in suppressing other types of cancer, including breast, colon, liver and stomach. Dr. Ling and his team do have a clinical trial with men in the works. I‘ll pass on the results as soon as they‘re available. In the meantime, keep up the daily regimen of 400 IU of vitamin E. Choose only 100 percent natural vitamin E that contains mixed tocopherols. This will provide provide balanced antioxidant protection. At the very least, the bottle should say it contains d-alpha or D-alpha. Skip any bottle that says it contains Dl-alpha (note the different "Dl" prefix). This means it‘s a synthetic, cheap imitation of vitamin E. Plus, it probably won‘t contain y-T3.
  6. Antioxidant eases tinnitus in four weeks

    For anyone who has tinnitus (or ringing in the ears) that won‘t go away, a new natural treatment holds a lot of promise. Pine bark extract is a powerful antioxidant that improves blood flow, even to the inner ear. And that‘s exactly why it‘s gaining attention as a natural treatment for tinnitus. You see, many researchers believe lack of blood flow to your ear triggers tinnitus. But if you can improve blood flow to the ear, the ringing in your ears will improve as well. To see if this theory held any weight, Italian researchers recently tested pine bark extract on 82 patients with tinnitus. They divided the volunteers into three groups. The first group received 100 mg of pine bark extract per day for four weeks, the second got 150 mg and the third got a placebo. Researchers found that blood flow to the inner ear improved in both groups taking the pine bark extract. Plus, at the study‘s outset, the researchers gave volunteers the Subjective Tinnitus Scale (STS). It‘s a test to evaluate the symptoms of tinnitus. Following the pine bark supplementation, the volunteers‘ symptoms decreased in severity. In fact, the group taking 100 mg of pine bark dropped from 8.8 to 5.2. And the group taking 150 mg dropped to just 3.3. That‘s an improvement of 60 percent! Pine bark has a very good safety record. But because it does affect your circulation, make sure to consult with your doctor before trying it.
  7. Natural arthritis relief options

    If you‘ve got arthritis and take 1200 mg of ibuprofen every day, I have some safe and effective options for you to consider. You see, NSAIDs are rife with problems. Take one for too long and you‘re setting yourself up for gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure, liver problems, kidney disorders, or even heart attack and stroke. In fact, widespread use of NSAIDs results in 107,000 hospitalizations (mostly due to bleeding in the GI tract) and 16,500 deaths in arthritis patients each year. But there are safe, effective options you can try so you don‘t wind up taking an NSAID for the rest of your life. First off, a new small study found that a natural plant extract might help relieve your pain as well as ibuprofen. Passion fruit peel extract is not exactly well-known in nutritional circles to treat arthritis, but previous studies show that it does reduce overall inflammation in the body. And that‘s probably why it appears to work against joint pain as well. For the recent study, scientists recruited 33 men and women with osteoarthritis in the knee and gave them a test to assess the severity of their arthritis symptoms. Then, the researchers randomly divided the volunteers into two groups. One group received 150 mg of passion fruit peel extract each day for two months. The other group received a placebo. At the end of two months, researchers checked back in the volunteers and again assessed the severity of their symptoms. The researchers found that the passion fruit group improved their overall arthritis scores by 20 percent. Plus, their pain, stiffness, and physical function scores also rose by about 20 percent. On the other hand, the group taking the placebo reported no improvements. According to the researchers, "The passion fruit peel extract supplementation should help patients to reduce their reliance upon NSAIDs that may have undesirable side effects in the treatment of osteoarthritis symptoms." Now, based on this small study, I‘m not convinced that passion fruit peel extract will magically make your joint pain completely disappear. But it may help...and you may be able to back off your other meds. Plus, over the years, I treated arthritis pain a number of different ways...

    Ease joint pain and stiffness without drugs

    First off, if you are lucky, you may respond to a short trial of either B3 or B6. I say you‘re "lucky" because there are types of arthritis that will respond to this kind of vitamin treatment within a mere week or two. First I‘d try 250 mg of B3 (or niacin) two to three times a day. Taking B3 at this dose can cause flushing of the skin, so look for inositol hexanicotinate. It is considered a ‘no-flush‘ type of niacin. If that doesn‘t work after two weeks of steady supplementation, try 100-200 mg of B6. (Don‘t go higher than 400 mg per day. Some nutritionists worry about neuropathy at B6 levels higher than 400 mg, but I personally think it‘s very rare. Also, magnesium helps with B6 absorption. So make sure to get 400-500 mg per day of that as well. Secondly, I‘d definitely look for a supplement that contains glucosamine and chondroitin to help support the growth of cartilage in your joints. But worn cartilage isn‘t the cause of all types of joint pain. And if that‘s your story, I have another suggestion. You see, there is a sticky, thick substance called synovial fluid that oils and lubes your joints. But when you don‘t have enough, your hips, knees, shoulders, and elbows ache, throb, and grind. And most of us over 50 don‘t have enough synovial fluid. But you can improve your synovial fluid with hyaluronic acid (HA). You see, HA is the main building block of synovial fluid. In fact, the more HA you have, the richer your synovial fluid. HA is naturally found in miso, beans, and radishes. You can also get it by injection. And recently, a few companies now offer it as a supplement. But make sure to do your homework. A lot of companies offer a synthetic form of HA that uses bacteria fermentation. Natural HA, on the other hand, is the way to go as it‘s stronger. Lastly, I‘d take a look at a substance called CMO (Cetyl-Myristoleate). It‘s a substance produced by certain animals that do not get (and cannot be induced to get) arthritis. This is harder to find and more expensive, so I only recommend it when all else fails. I‘ve gotten a lot of feed back about CMO...and it seems to either work wonders for you or not a wink. There‘s no grey area.

    One last word about arthritis pain...

    Even though I‘m a nutritionist, there‘s one last thing I need to tell you about arthritis: Get moving and you‘ll feel better! Sure, the last thing you feel like doing if you‘ve got arthritis in both hips is to exercise, but it‘s exactly what your body needs. In fact, the less you use the joint that‘s stiff and painful, the worse it becomes. Exercise is critical. First and foremost, it stimulates your circulatory system. This distributes healing nutrients to the joint that‘s causing you problems. Plus, remember the synovial fluid found in all your joints? When you don‘t exercise, that fluid gets thick and gunky. But when you exercise, your synovial fluid thins out and lubricates your joints properly. Plus, exercise keeps your cartilage healthy. You see, when you work out, the cartilage between your joints takes a pounding. But with each pounding, it also absorbs the nutrient-rich synovial fluid like a sponge and actually gets stronger. So what‘s the best exercise for you? For someone with arthritis, I always recommend walking, swimming, or bouncing on a trampoline. All three are gentle forms of exercise. You don‘t even need to break a sweat (though that‘s always good too). Just get going enough to raise your pulse and get the blood flowing throughout the body. Sure, tackling arthritis is not a quick-fix. You didn‘t get it in a week and you‘re not going to get rid of it that fast either. But there are steps you can take--without resorting to drugs--that can help you feel a little better each and every day.
  8. Vitamins may reduce the risk of heart attacks in women

    Taking a multivitamin is one of the foundations of good health, especially if you‘re a woman. In fact, researchers recently found that women with no history of heart disease who regularly take multivitamins significantly reduce their risk of suffering a heart attack. And the longer you take one, the better. For the study, a team of Swedish researchers followed about 30,000 women for 10 years. At the outset of the study, most of the women were healthy, with no history of heart disease and ranged in age from 49 to 83. And about 60 percent of them regularly took multivitamins. Over the next 10 years, about 1,100 women suffered heart attacks. But taking a multivitamin clearly lowered a woman‘s risk. In fact, women with no history of heart problems who took a daily multivitamin for five years reduced their heart attack risk by almost 20 percent. Plus, if a woman took a multivitamin for 10 years, she lowered her heart disease risk by 41 percent compared to non-vitamin takers. So when looking for a good multivitamin, here are a few tips: 1. Skip the grocery store brands. These only contain 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). And the RDA just doesn‘t cut it. As I‘ve said before, look for a high-quality multi that will give you 25 mg of B1, B2, and B6. 2. Skip any the once-a-day brands. I know you like the convenience of an "all-in- one" daily vitamin. But all the good stuff can‘t fit into one single capsule. A good multivitamin usually consists of 3 to 6 capsules that you take throughout the day. 3. Look for a multi that contains digestive enzymes like amylase, lipase, and protease. These make your capsules bigger, but they‘re really important. They help support proper digestion and ensure the best possible absorption of vital nutrients in your multi.
  9. Vitamin D use skyrockets in U.S.

    This week, I read that 27 percent of Americans now take vitamin D. That‘s up from 16 percent just last year. And while I‘d like to hear that every American takes 5,000 IU of vitamin D, I‘m glad to hear that at least we‘re making progress. Vitamin D is critically important to your health. In fact, recent research suggests that vitamin D affects more than 200 of your genes. Over the years I‘ve written about it plenty as it relates to:
    • Stronger muscles
    • Decreased Parkinson‘s disease risk
    • Stronger immune health
    • Younger bones
    • Lowered risk of type-2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, as well as colon and breast cancer
    • Fewer urinary tract infections
    • Improved digestion
    • Happier moods
    So if you haven‘t yet joined the vitamin D bandwagon, now‘s the time to hop on. Go for up to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 (the form of vitamin D most readily absorbed by the body). You can also get vitamin D into your diet by eating more eggs (naturally found in yolks) and fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines. Lastly, make sure to have your vitamin D levels checked with your annual blood work. Ideally, you want your levels between 50-70 ng/mL.
  10. Surviving cold and flu season 101

    This week I‘ve got some more advice about arming yourself against winter‘s worst viruses and bacteria. In addition to vitamin D and probiotics, there are quite a few things you can do to protect yourself this winter. First off, make vitamin C part of your daily regimen. It‘s a powerful detoxifier that also stimulates our immune system. But here‘s what most people don‘t realize about vitamin C: It doesn‘t work a lick once you‘ve got a cold. So taking a few extra tabs once you‘ve got the sniffles isn‘t going to help you much. On the other hand, it works magnificently for the prevention of colds. So take it daily while you‘re healthy and you‘ll stay that way. Also, it‘s important to remember that vitamin C only stays in your body for a few hours at a time. So you‘ve got to take it a few times throughout the day. For basic cold prevention, take 1,000 mg two to three times a day. If you‘re under any type of stress -- physical or emotional -- you may want to go for more. Secondly, like vitamin C -- take the herb Echinacea daily to prevent catching a cold in the first place. It doesn‘t work well once you‘ve caught a cold. In fact, a few years back, scientists found that taking Echinacea and vitamin C together can reduce your risk of catching a cold by a whopping 86 percent! Thirdly, at the height of cold and flu season, for some extra immune system support add some EpiCor, Beta 1,3 Glucan, and Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) to the mix. EpiCor is 100 percent natural and helps to balance your immune system. Beta 1,3 Glucan is a natural polysaccharide that activates your white blood cells. And last but not least, ALA is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body to absorb nutrients from the food you eat.

    Home remedies that work

    I‘m also a big believer in saltwater gargles. Most folks know that it can help relieve a sore throat. But did you know that rinsing with saltwater could even block you from catching a cold in the first place? A few years back, that‘s exactly what scientists discovered! They recruited 400 healthy volunteers to see if saltwater rinses could actually prevent colds. Half of the volunteers rinsed with salt water every day for 60 days during cold and flu season. The other half did nothing. Scientists found that the volunteers who gargled regularly caught 40 percent fewer upper respiratory tract infections compared to the non-garglers. Plus, when they did get sick, they got over it faster. Saltwater is effective against the common cold because it kills the bacteria in your throat, tonsils, and adenoids. I usually recommend dissolving half a teaspoon of salt in a glass full of warm water. Gargle for a minute or so before spitting it out. This will also help kill off bacteria that cause bad breath, so I gargle in the morning, after brushing and flossing my teeth.

    What should you take once you get a cold?

    Should you catch a cold this winter, there are a few things to do to get over it quicker. First off, here‘s the obvious: Lots of fluids and rest. Secondly, take a 13 mg zinc lozenge five or six times a day during your cold. Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a role in your immune health. And while most research is mixed as to whether or not it can prevent a cold, one fact about zinc is quite clear. It can help you get over your cold faster! In 2008 scientists found that men and women who took a zinc lozenge every few hours within the first 24 hours of developing a cold got over the bug faster. In fact, their colds only last half as long as the control group who took a placebo. Plus, their coughs lasted for two days instead of five. And their noses only ran for three days, instead of four and a half. Just be careful about which kind of lozenge you buy. Find one that contains zinc acetate. Your body will absorb this kind the best. Also, avoid lozenges that contain citric acid or other flavorings. These added flavors block zinc‘s natural ability to boost your immune system and may actually make things worse. Also, long-term use of zinc is not safe. This can lead to a copper deficiency. So just make sure to stop the lozenges after you kick your cold.
  11. These immune system boosters can protect you against winter’s worst germs

    Think your digestion has nothing to do with how well you fight off a cold? Well, think again. A new study finds that a natural digestive aid may be your ticket to a healthier winter with fewer colds. In the Guide to Good Health, I‘ve talked often about the "good bacteria" (also known as intestinal flora) in your gut. These tiny microorganisms help you digest food. They also defend against toxins and germs. In fact, your digestive tract is your first line of defense against disease and the common cold. Normally, billions of these good bacteria line your digestive tract. But a poor diet, antibiotics, and other drugs can wipe out these healthy bugs. Also, as you get older, your body‘s supply of good bacteria falls off. The good news is, you can replenish your body‘s supply of these natural immune boosters with probiotic supplements. These supplements contain billions of units of good bacteria. (As a comparison, yogurt only contains a few million active bacteria by the time you eat it. And that‘s hardly enough protection against today‘s resilient germs.)

    Boost your immunity this winter with probiotics

    Scientists recently put probiotics to the test against the common cold. They recruited 272 healthy volunteers to take part in this double-blind placebo- controlled study (the gold standard in scientific circles). They gave half of the volunteers a daily probiotic that contained billions of units of healthy bacteria. The other volunteers received a placebo. After 12 weeks, the volunteers who took probiotics had a clear edge. In fact:
    • The probiotic group got 12 percent fewer colds.
    • The probiotic group also got over their colds 30 percent FASTER than the placebo group.
    • Lastly, the probiotic group‘s symptoms were LESS SEVERE than the placebo group.
    Not bad for a digestive aid that you‘re hopefully already taking! Plus, while we‘re talking about cold and flu season, don‘t forget about vitamin D.

    Tiny vitamin packs a wallop against flu...

    In addition to probiotics, Vitamin D also helps to boost your natural defense. It kicks your T cells into action. And these cells track down and kill foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. Plus, a recent study showed that vitamin D also packs a wallop against the flu. For this study, scientists divided healthy patients into two groups. One group received 1200 IU of D3 (the most active form of D) each day for four months. The other group received a placebo. During the four-month period, 40 percent fewer participants taking D3 got the flu compared to the placebo group. Plus, the patients going into the study with the lowest levels of D got the biggest protection. These patients experienced a 74 percent reduction in the incidence of the flu. And these results only stem from a period of four months! I have a feeling that these results would have been even greater had the participants taken vitamin D supplements all year long. You see, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that gets absorbed into your body through your intestinal tract. Plus, your body can store it for up to 60 days. So even though it‘s not quite flu and cold season, now‘s the time to kick your immune system into high gear. I recommend taking up to 5,000 IU of D3 a day, especially if you live in the northern part of the country. In addition, load up on the probiotics. Look for a capsule that contains billions of units from many different strains of bacteria.
  12. Benefits of cranberries for men may include better prostate function

    Cranberry juice isn‘t just for women anymore. A new study finds that cranberries also help men improve their prostate and urinary function. For the study, Czech researchers recruited 42 men with lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS). LUTS is a common problem that affects about 40 percent of older men. Symptoms include slow flow, dribbling, hesitancy, and incomplete voiding. The men in the study also had benign prostatic hyperplasia (or BPH), elevated PSA levels, and non-bacterial prostatitis. The researchers wanted to see if taking a cranberry extract would improve urinary function in men with these pre-existing conditions. So they gave half of the men 1,500 mg per day of dried cranberry extract for six months. The other men received a placebo during the same timeframe. According to published research, the men taking the cranberry supplement showed significant improvements in six different areas:
    • Healthier scores on the International Prostate Symptom test
    • Increased urinary flow
    • Decrease in the amount of urine left in bladder after voiding
    • Increase in total volume of urine
    • Reduced PSA levels
    • Overall improvement in quality of life
    In addition, the men taking the cranberry extract reported zero side effects. (That‘s an important factor, when you consider the serious side effects associated with most prescription drugs used to treat BPH.) On the other hand, the men taking the placebo experienced no improvements in urinary or prostate function.

    Seven steps to a healthier prostate

    Last May, I talked about six steps to follow for a healthier prostate. And based on the results of the Czech research, you may want to consider adding a seventh step and take some cranberry extract every day...especially if you‘re over 50 and suffer from BPH or urinary problems. Dried cranberry extract is pretty easy to find. It comes in capsule form. Just make sure to give it some time before you expect to see any results. It may even take six months of steady supplementation before you experience any improvements in urinary flow.
  13. Watercress benefits – may protect against breast cancer

    If you‘re a breast cancer survivor, make sure you eat watercress as often as you can. It may just protect you against the cancer ever making a comeback. In fact, according to a new study, this tart leafy green starves out breast cancer cells and interferes with a major cancer pathway.

    Leafy green superfood protects DNA

    Watercress is a delicate leafy green that grows in spring water. It looks a lot like lettuce, but it actually belongs to the cabbage family. It‘s plentiful in iron, calcium, vitamin A and C and for thousands of years people have eaten it to stay healthy. In fact, ancient Persians, Greeks, and Romans enjoyed watercress with their meals. I‘ve even read that Hippocrates -- the father of medicine -- built his first hospital next to a spring so that he‘d have easy access to fresh watercress. A few years back, scientists found that watercress has a lot of anti-cancer potential. In fact, in one study, men and women who ate a serving of watercress each day for eight weeks increased antioxidant levels in their blood. This is important because antioxidants remove cancer-causing free radicals from the body. Plus, these folks decreased the DNA damage to their white blood cells by almost 25 percent. And why is that significant? Well, according to Professor Ian Rowland, the study‘s lead researcher, "Blood cell DNA damage is an indicator of whole body cancer risk." So, the more DNA damage there is to your white blood cells, the higher your cancer risk. But eating watercress seems to lower your overall risk. And, apparently, this is especially beneficial for women...

    Watercress "shuts down" breast cancer delivery system

    The latest study looked specifically at how breast cancer cells respond to watercress. As you probably know, breast cancer tumors (like most malignant tumors) survive on nutrients delivered by your blood vessels. And as the tumor grows bigger, it needs access to more and more blood vessels. To solve this dilemma, the tumor sends a signal for your body to release a protein called HIF. This protein tells normal tissue to redirect their blood vessels into the hungry tumor. As a result, the tumor grows and spreads with nutrients delivered by the "stolen" blood vessels. But there‘s a plant compound proven to block the release of HIF and put a stop to all the frantic blood vessel growth...and that plant compound is found in abundance in watercress!

    Breast cancer survivors load up on watercress

    For the study, UK scientists recruited a small group of breast cancer survivors. The women agreed to eat 80 grams of watercress (a cereal bowl full) and then give blood samples over a period of 24 hours. The research team discovered two things by analyzing the participants‘ blood samples. First, remember that helpful plant compound that blocks new blood vessel group? Well, after eating watercress, the women had lots of that compound in their blood. And that‘s not all... Remember that harmful protein -- called HIF -- that signals the body to send healthy blood vessels into malignant tumors? Well, the scientists found that HIF levels significantly dropped after the women ate the watercress. This means that any tumors trying to regain toe-hold in the body had another thing comin‘ after the women ate watercress. So, without a doubt, if you‘re a breast cancer survivor, make watercress a part of your weekly (if not daily) regimen. I hear that in Britain that‘s their favorite type of green vegetable. Look for it in the refrigerated aisle of the produce section, near the lettuce. It‘s got a small, delicate leaf that almost looks like a flower. Put it on sandwiches. Use it in salads. Or add it to soups, quiches, omelets, sauces and dips. You can find tons of recipes on www.watercress.com.
  14. Vitamin slows brain atrophy by 50 percent

    Brain atrophy -- or brain shrinkage -- is very common in adults over the age of 60. It occurs when neurons in your brain die or lose their connection to other neurons. The average brain shrinks at a rate of .5 percent a year once you hit 60. And some of this "shrinkage" explains why you may not feel as sharp as you did when you were 20. For some, brain atrophy occurs at an accelerated pace. We call this "mild cognitive impairment" and it describes they type of memory loss that goes beyond the "normal" aging brain. People with this kind of mild cognitive impairment lose brain mass at a rate of 1 percent a year. And those with Alzheimer‘s disease experience a loss rate of 2.5 percent per year. For many decades, nutritionists have talked about one factor that plays a role in how quickly your brain shrinks: Your homocysteine level. Homocysteine is an amino acid implicated for its role in many different diseases, especially heart disease. It‘s also a major risk factor in whether or not you develop dementia and Alzheimer‘s. Basically, the more homocysteine in your blood, the higher your risk of experiencing serious cognitive decline. But, here‘s the good news...

    One vitamin significantly lowers your homocysteine levels

    It‘s well-documented that members of the vitamin B-complex family can significantly lower homocysteine levels. In fact, recent studies show that taking vitamin B every day can lower your homocysteine by 25 to 50 percent. And scientists from the University of Oxford recently took this premise one step further. Since we know that vitamin B decreases homocysteine, can we assume that it also slows brain shrinkage? And even more importantly, can it work for men and women who already show signs of memory loss? To answer these questions, the Oxford scientists recruited 271 healthy men and women over the age of 70 with mild cognitive impairment. The participants all scored below average on tests that assessed word recall and fluency. In addition, they all expressed concern over memory loss but had not been formally diagnosed with dementia. Next, each of the participants were given MRI scans to determine the amount of atrophy in their brain. In the next step the scientists divided the volunteers into two groups. One group took vitamin B supplements each day for two years. The tablets contained three components of the B family of vitamins: .8 mg of folic acid, .5 mg of B12, and 20 mg of B6. The other group received a placebo for two years; and to keep things honest, the participants weren‘t told whether they received the real vitamin or the placebo.

    Vitamin B group shows major improvements

    After two years, the participants got another set of MRIs and another round of blood work. The scientists then analyzed the data and here‘s what they found: 1. The vitamin B group lowered their homocysteine levels by an average of 23 percent. 2. Homocysteine levels of the placebo group increased by 8 percent. 3. Overall, the vitamin B group experienced 30 percent less brain shrinkage compared to the placebo group. 4. Lastly, people with the most homocysteine at the outset of the study benefitted the most. They experienced 50 percent less brain shrinkage compared to the placebo group. According to Professor David Smith and lead scientist from the Oxford team, "We have shown that treatment for two years with B vitamins markedly slows the accelerated rate of atrophy in people with mild cognitive impairment." He went on to say, "It‘s a bigger effect than anyone could have predicted and it‘s telling us something biological. These vitamins are doing something to the brain structure – they‘re protecting it, and that‘s very important because we need to protect the brain to prevent Alzheimer‘s." Gee, I couldn‘t have said it better myself!

    Get on the vitamin B bandwagon!

    There are lots of things you can do to protect your brain against shrinkage. First off, make sure you‘re taking a quality multivitamin. It should contain at least 25 mg of B6. Next, think about adding .8 mg folic acid and .5 mg B12 into your regimen. You‘ll need to take them separately to get to the dosage used in the study. Folic acid is easy to find. And B12 isn‘t too bad either, really. You‘ll just need to take the sub-lingual form. This means it comes as a liquid and you use a dropper to place it under your tongue. There‘s also a dissolvable, under-the-tongue pill form that‘s popular.
  15. More benefits of green tea – it protects your DNA

    Green tea protects your DNA. That‘s now a proven scientific fact, thanks to the work of Professor Iris Benzie. And her powerful new discovery helps explain why green tea drinkers seem to avoid weight gain, depression, cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer‘s disease.

    Three reasons to drink green tea

    We already knew that drinking green tea is good for you in a number of ways. First, it purifies the body by eliminating free radicals. Free radicals are those unstable molecules that cause disease and age your body. Secondly, drinking green tea promotes the healthy turnover of cells in your body. Technically, it‘s called "apoptosis." And it prompts old cells to die off so that new, healthy cells can take their place. Apoptosis also prevents cancer by blocking the uncontrolled growth and spread of damaged cells. And lastly, we now know that green tea also protects your DNA, the tiny building blocks found inside nearly every cell in your body. Many scientists compare DNA to an elaborate set of blueprints or instructions. Think of your DNA as "ground zero" for good health. It all starts in the tiniest building blocks of your cells.

    So what damages your DNA?

    Radiation, UV rays, toxins, chemicals, free radicals, and unhealthy diet can all -- over time -- damage your DNA. Fortunately, your body finds and repairs most damage on its own. In fact, special proteins -- I like to think of them as DNA "watch dogs" -- tirelessly scour your body looking for problems. When they find a damaged strand, they immediately tell the cell to stop dividing, so the problem won‘t pass on to the next generation of cells. And then your body goes to work repairing the DNA. This ensures that you will go on to live a long, healthy life. But sometimes the DNA cops miss a strand. And these damaged strands can cause problems down the road, such as premature aging and disease. The good news is green tea can help prevent problems from even occurring in your DNA in the first place.

    Green tea protects your DNA

    Iris Benzie and her team of researchers recruited 18 healthy volunteers to participate in a study examining the effects of green tea on DNA. They divided the volunteers into two groups. One group drank two cups of one percent green tea (longjing green tea or screw-shaped green tea) every day for four weeks. The other group drank water every day for four weeks. Researchers took samples of the participants‘ blood and urine before and after the month-long study. Their analysis showed that the group who drank green tea reduced their DNA damage by 20 percent. And that was after just 30 days of drinking green tea! Imagine how good your DNA would look if you drank it for one whole year or five years or 20 years! Plus...

    Why stop at one cup, when three is better?

    Research from earlier this year shows that drinking three cups of green tea every day may significantly increase your lifespan. This time, scientists compared the length of telomeres among green tea drinkers. (Telomeres are DNA sequences at the end of your chromosomes. They shorten as your cells replicate and age. So the longer your telomeres are, the "younger" your cells.) Scientist found that men and women who drank an average of three cups of green tea per day had a big advantage over one-cuppers. In fact, their telomeres were 4.6 kilobases longer, which translates into about five years of life. So go ahead and have that second (or third) cup of green tea today. It may just add five years to your life! Just make sure to drink the real stuff, made by you with tea bags. Don‘t fall for the sweetened kind found in bottles. These only contain a fraction of the antioxidants found in real green tea. Instead, it‘s mostly sugar and water.
  16. Benefits of vitamin C—happier hospital stays

    Ideally, you'll never have to spend even a single night in a hospital bed. But if you happen to wind up there, even if it's just for one night, make sure to take along your vitamins. One vitamin in particular--required for tissue repair in the body--is a MUST. Plus, a new study shows that this vitamin may also help keep your mood afloat during your hospital stay. Of course, I'm talking about the almighty vitamin C. You see, vitamin C is the essential vitamin REQUIRED for all new growth or repair in the body. In fact, it boosts collagen production. And collagen is the main protein responsible for repair in the body. It repairs your tissues, tendons, bones, muscles, organs and even your brain. Want your post-op scar to heal faster? Make sure you've got plenty of vitamin C...because without it, your body can't repair anything. Secondly, vitamin C is critical to your immune system. It boosts the production of interferon, a protein that helps shut down the growth and spread of bacteria, viruses, or tumors. And it's exactly what you need to have in abundance when you're entering the hospital and fighting infection at every turn. Thirdly, as it turns out, vitamin C makes for a happier hospital stay. That's what surgeons from Montreal's Jewish Medical Hospital just discovered. Can more vitamin C make you happier? Canadian physicians selected 32 hospital patients to take part in this study. (Granted, that's a miniscule number. But for a hospital to dispense anything other than Percocet or Prilosec, it's a pretty big deal and essentially unheard of in 2010!) First off, the doctors divided the patients into two groups. One group would receive 500 mg of vitamin C twice a day for up to 10 days. The other group would receive 1,000 IU of vitamin D (as a placebo) twice a day for up to 10 days. The doctors also measured blood levels of vitamin C before and after treatment. Unfortunately, they found that 60 percent of the patients were vitamin C deficient at the study's outset. Next, the doctors asked their patients to answer questionnaires about their mood before vitamin treatment began and after at least five days of taking the vitamins. Here's what they found:
    • First off, in the group taking vitamin C, their blood levels of vitamin C more than tripled.
    • In addition, the vitamin C group experienced a 34 percent average reduction in mood disturbance.
    • In the vitamin D patients, their blood serum levels of D rose as well.
    • But the vitamin D patients experienced no improvement in mood.
    Clearly, vitamin C gave patients a nice boost in mood during their stay. In their report, the doctors didn't make any guesses why the vitamin C group fared so much better. But I've got an explanation: Vitamin C makes everything better. You see, when you're under stress--physical or mental (such as during a hospital stay)--your body's need for vitamin C increases exponentially. In addition, inflammation following surgery or illness depletes your body's absorption of vitamin C. So by giving your body more of what it needs, you heal faster and you're happier. Add vitamin C to the top of your "To Pack" list There's no doubt vitamin C will help you recover from any hospital visit. Not only will it boost your mood, but it will also help you thwart infection. And we all know that's a huge concern even in the best hospitals. Plus, vitamin C helps flush out any drugs or anesthesia you may have received during your hospital stay. Bottom line? Prevent potential problems and supplement with extra vitamin C before you enter the hospital. And definitely pack a bottle of it during your hospital stay. Just don't count on your nurse to add it to your little cup of pills. In fact, you may have to sneak it in between hospital rounds. (I've done that a few times myself!) If you're recovering from an illness or preparing surgery, take 1,000 mg of C three times a day. That's quite a bit more than the Canadians used in their study. But if you're recovering from an illness or surgery, you'll need it. It's essential as your body repairs itself and returns to optimal health. Plus, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so any extra your body doesn't need will get flushed. For normal vitamin C maintenance, take 1,000 mg of C twice a day. But don't go for time-released preparations as these are a waste of money. Vitamin C only stays in your body for a few hours at a time.
  17. GlaxoSmithKline execs slammed for touting resveratrol

    One thing I don't like is a bully. And that's what GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is, when it comes down to it. Last month, GSK forced two of it's execs to stop their volunteer work with a non-profit called Healthy Lifespan Institute. According to its website, Healthy Lifespan is "dedicated to extending the healthy lifespan by studying, educating, and testing the rapid advances in the science and medicine of aging." (Sounds like my kind of organization!) So why exactly did the GSK execs get yanked from the non-profit? Did they spend too much time volunteering for the Institute? No. Did they divert GSK profits to Healthy Lifespan Institute? No. They forced the execs off the non-profit's board simply because the Institute sold resveratrol supplements...at cost. So what's so bad about that? Well, turns out GSK is trying to develop a resveratrol prescription drug that they can patent and make billions off of. As you'll recall from last week's Guide to Good Health, resveratrolis an antioxidant superstar that may help prevent any number of diseases...from Alzheimer's to cancer. I'll tell you what...I actually loved reading about this story. It shows that resveratrol is the real deal if it threatens even a big gun bully like GSK. Plus, every time you take your resveratrol, you're keeping a bully in its place!
  18. Resveratrol benefits… could it be the “fountain of youth”?

    I'm a research junkie. I'll admit it. So I just about jumped out of my seat when I read that someone had finally tested resveratrol--the antioxidant superstar found in red wine and grapes--on actual human beings! Yes, nutritionists have known about resveratrol for decades. It helps tame inflammation and prevent oxidative stress. This is significant because unchecked inflammation and oxidative stress can lead to heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer. Even the mainstream press picked up on resveratrol a few years back when scientists proved it could extend the lifespan of mice by 20 percent! They dubbed it the "fountain of youth." But until last month, there was one giant problem with this antioxidant phenom: Zero clinical proof actually existed that it works on humans. (And I mean, ZERO.) There was plenty of data showing that it can increase the lifespan of roundworms, fruit flies, mice, and yeast. But nothing on humans...until last month. Will the antioxidant superstar work on humans? You may be wondering, why all the fuss? If resveratrol is found in red wine...doesn't everyone know that drinking a glass of red wine is good for your health? And yes, that's true. But this study digs much deeper. In fact, it's the first- ever study showing why resveratrol may be a legit "fountain of youth" for humans after all. Specifically, scientists from the University of Buffalo wanted to see if resveratrol could decrease inflammation and oxidative stress in healthy men and women. So the scientists recruited 20 healthy men and women and took samples of their blood. Then, they split the participants into two groups. One group received 40 mg of resveratrol each day for six weeks. And the other group received a placebo. And here's what they found...

    Anti-aging extract scores off the charts!

    Resveratrol performed just as we all had hoped. First off, it blocked the formation of free radicals (reactive oxygen species or ROS). These harmful, unstable molecules cause damage to healthy cells. Over time, widespread free radical damage can harm your DNA and lead to a disease like cancer. But the participants who took resveratrol for six weeks significantly lowered their ROS levels. Secondly, the resveratrol group also lowered their TNF levels. TNF (or tumor necrosis factor) is a harmful protein that creates inflammation throughout the body. A few weeks ago, we talked about this harmful protein and the role it plays in rheumatoid arthritis. But TNF doesn't just harm rheumatoid arthritis patients. It causes widespread inflammation that can affect your blood vessels, your organs, your skin, and even your brain. It also messes with your body's insulin production. In fact, endocrinologists believe that lowering TNF levels will improve insulin resistance in diabetics.

    Small study, big impact

    Now, unfortunately this study is terribly small in scope with just 20 participants. Nevertheless, I think that it will have a big impact in the years to come. First off, it proves that resveratrol can help control inflammation in humans. And that's huge! Inflammation is the underlying, biological cause of so many different uncured diseases -- from rheumatoid arthritis to Alzheimer's disease. Plus, it just builds more momentum for this superstar antioxidant. It will be interesting to see if one day scientists prove that resveratrol can extend your lifespan, as they proved with mice a few years back. So if you're not already taking something with resveratrol, now's definitely the time start! (Especially if you're over 50 or have an inflammatory disease.) And yes, you'll find resveratrol in red wine and grapes. But you'd have to drink gallons of wine (or eat bushels of grapes) to get 100 mg of resveratrol. That's the amount you'll find in any quality resveratrol supplement. Most of these are derived from the Japanese knotweed herb. So take action now to keep feeling and looking young.
  19. Can calcium supplements really give you a heart attack?

    A major new study announced that taking a calcium supplement may raise your heart attack or stroke risk by as much at 30 percent. I know what you're thinking: "Is this really true? Could the pill I take for my bones really be that bad for me?" And the answer is: Yes, calcium can cause serious health problems when taken alone. But I could also argue that shaving your beard is bad for you health because you could cut the carotid artery in your neck. Or walking the dog is bad for your health because you could get hit by a car. Basically, you do anything the wrong way and you can get hurt. So go ahead and shave your beard, walk the dog, and take calcium. Just do it the RIGHT way. Study misses one major fact... Professor Ian Reid and his team from the University of Auckland analyzed data from 15 different randomized trials conducted over the last 20 years. They found that men and women who took calcium supplements did increase their risk of heart attack or stroke by about 30 percent. But to tell you the truth, that stat didn't surprise me. And neither did his other big "discovery": Men and women with high dietary intakes of calcium did not see the same increased risk. In interviews, Reid and his team seem to scratch their heads to explain this conundrum. Why does a calcium supplement appear to raise risk and not a high- calcium meal? They theorize that calcium supplements cause the mineral to collect in your blood...and high-calcium meals do not. And, again, that's true. Taking 500 mg of calcium alone isn't a good thing. Your body can't handle it. In fact, in addition to cardiovascular problems, it can cause problems with your kidneys, GI tract, nervous system, and even your brain! But there's one sure-fire way to solve the calcium problem: Take magnesium with it. And that's the one huge, gigantic, obvious missing piece from Reid's analysis. You see, calcium cannot work in the body without magnesium. Crack the calcium puzzle You body can NOT handle high amounts of calcium on its own. It gets stuck in your blood, soft tissues, and in your kidneys. It also causes hardening of the arterial walls...and eventually cardiovascular events as Reid's meta-analysis showed. That's why I've always recommended taking one part magnesium for every two parts calcium. Magnesium helps your body absorb the calcium so it doesn't collect in your kidneys and soft tissues. By the way, this is taught in every Nutrition 101 course, in nearly every community college across the country. (Clearly, Professor Reid slept through that course.) And truthfully, I'm not sure why manufacturers even sell supplements that only contain calcium. If you've got a bottle, throw it out. Calcium and magnesium naturally work together So...now can you figure out why people from Reid's meta-analysis with a high- calcium diet didn't increase their cardiovascular events risk? You got it: They were also eating a high-magnesium diet. In natural foods, calcium is always paired with magnesium. It's just nature's way of providing us with exactly what we need to stay healthy. Just look up high-calcium foods like broccoli or kale. These foods also contain magnesium. In fact, nature doesn't make a calcium-rich food that doesn't contain magnesium. That is unless it's "fortified with calcium" like homogenized milk and most dairy products on the shelves. So don't get fooled into thinking these products are natural! Professor Reid goes down swinging In interviews, Professor Reid isn't content just bashing calcium. He goes after all supplements: "We have tended to focus on just the benefits of supplements without really looking at their safety. In the future I think we need to look at both the efficacy and the safety of supplements." Well, truthfully, I have to agree with that last thought...but for a different reason. Just because something is natural doesn't mean that it can't also do harm. Supplements are powerful tools and you must learn to use them the right way...in the right amount and combination. That's why it's important to work with a qualified naturopath and keep reading my Guide to Good Health. I'll make sure to point out the landmines and steer you clear of Professor Reids of the world.
  20. Fish oil supplements may help post-menopausal women slash breast cancer risk

    Be persistent and consistent with your fish oil supplement. It will be worth all the effort, especially if you're a woman. That's because a new study found that women who take fish oil for at least 10 years have a much lower risk of getting breast cancer. U.S. researchers asked 35,000 healthy, post-menopausal women about their supplement use. They found that many of women took specialty supplements as black cohosh, ginseng, and fish oil. Ten years later, 880 of the women developed breast cancer. But the women who took fish oil supplements for at least 10 years cut their risk of breast cancer by an impressive 32 percent! Researchers believe fish oil is helpful to women because it reduces inflammation, a key factor in the growth of breast cancer. As far as I can see, there's only one thing missing from this fantastic study: Vitamin E. You always need to take vitamin E along with any fish oil supplement. As I've said numerous times over the years, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil produce free radicals. But the antioxidants in vitamin E will zap any free radicals before they can cause any harm.

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